в and ф are considered a voiced-voiceless pair, but in English there is surely a difference between the 'v' and 'f' sound that is not limited to voicedness, for example, the mouth positioning is different.

Is it true that the pronunciation of ф should not be equated to that of 'f', but should instead be thought of as equal to that of a voiceless-'v' ?

What's the proper way to pronounce в and ф?

  • I honestly think that this would find better audience at linguistics SE.
    – shabunc
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 21:02
  • @shabunc, Proper way to pronounce в and ф?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 21:30
  • difference bettween pronunciation of f in Russian and English
    – shabunc
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 7:23
  • @shabunc, non-Eng and non-language is good. An ideal answer will show a video of lips/tongue movement.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 23:54

2 Answers 2


I'll start a bit from afar.

Each segment ("sound", allophone) covers a lot of possible actual articulations. And, while it does seem like for [v] the spectrum is somewhat wider than for [f], their articulations are most similar and voiced/voiceless is the only difference which is stable across different allowed articulations. (As an aside, I would be interested in how you believe mouth to be positioned differently for [v] and [f]. If @Sergey Slepov's characteristization of lower lip covering upper teeth - presumably instead of merely touching them as in every labiodental - is right, this is certainly the first time I see it.)

Now, why is it relevant? Because literally the same holds for Russian: [в] and [в'] similarly do have more possible articulations than [ф] and [ф'] but the only stable difference is voice.

  • Many native English speakers put the upper teeth behind their bottom lip while saying [f] and on top of the bottom lip when saying [v], often without realising it. The difference is very subtle indeed. Here is one example of a person actually realising she is doing it: youtube.com/watch?v=EbC1M3IJTtI&t=27s Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 11:20
  • @SergeySlepov possibly they do it so to increase distance from th sound. I have heard the native English speakers to pronounce voiceless th close to Russian ф
    – Anixx
    Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 14:11

Yes, [ф] is just a voiceless [в] which is practically the same as the English [v]. In [ф] there is no additional articulation found in [f] (lower lip covering upper teeth). Minimal pair:

  • водка
  • фотка

Another voiced-voiceless pair that English speakers should be particularly careful with is [б] and [п]. Be sure not to add any aspiration to [п]:

  • бабка
  • папка

No aspiration in [д] or [т] either.

  • > No aspiration in [д] or [т] either. - Perhaps you meant [к], not [д]?
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 17:15

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